With events such as the Big Garden Birdwatch and the Big School Birdwatch taking place this month, we look at attractions to get children learning about our feathered friends.

Barn Owl

The Big Garden Birdwatch is taking place between 27th and 29th January and encourages members of the public to get outdoors and note what birds they spot and report back to the RSPB. Schools can also take part with the Big School Birdwatch, during which schools can submit their results until 23rd February.

Here, we suggest a number of attractions which offer educational visits that can inspire and inform schools about the birds of the world.

The Rutland Water Nature Reserve in Rutland offers educational visits and is a great place to take pupils to get a close look at wildlife. As well as walking around the waters, pupils can enjoy the wildlife hides in which they can look out from with binoculars in search of birds and other creatures. Besides this, the centre also provides educational days, such as Habitats Day, Seasons Day and Bush Craft Day, to learn about a variety of topics. Birds you may spot whilst on a visit include geese, swans, a variety of ducks, cormorants, egrets, grebes, lapwings, and even Osprey at certain times of the year. 

School visits to the Hawk Conservancy Trust in Andover is another option to celebrate the Big School Birdwatch. With various workshops available such as Owl Pellet Investigation, Conservation in Action and National Bird of Prey Hospital, children see birds and also gain a better understanding of them and how they live. During a visit, students can even get to hold a bird of prey and watch falconry displays.

Hawk Conservancy Trust

Pictured: A demonstration at the Hawk Conservancy Trust.

Gigrin Farm in Rhayader, Wales, also known as the Red Kite Feeding Centre is a 200-acre working farm which is well known for its mass red kite feeding sessions, where reportedly hundreds of red kite feed every single day. School visits can be arranged and there are five main hides in which pupils can view the feeds from. These huge birds are gradually increasing in population and can often be seen flying in parts of England too.

Flamingo Land in North Yorkshire can get pupils interested in the topic of conservation as the attraction focuses on the protection of flamingos. Not only can pupils visiting see these exotic pink birds but there is also a zoo and theme park. The attraction caters for all Key Stages, with a variety of guided tours looking at different topics such as Conservation, Variety of Life and Enclosure Design.

in Gloucestershire allows students to see a multitude of different bird species, from penguins, to cranes, to owls, to ostrich. School trips are encouraged and downloadable resources such as quizzes can be accessed either before visiting or after, to test the pupils on their bird knowledge. There are also hands-on activities available for booking, which focus on a range of wildlife and environmental themes, linking to the National Curriculum.

Holdenby House in Northamptonshire is a great choice for those wanting to combine a history day with a bird themed trip. The Grade 1 listed building is open for visits and educational trips are welcome. The gardens can also be explored, and there you’ll find the falconry which is run by Icarus Falconry, and provides educational talks and flight demonstrations across Holdenby’s grounds. History links when visiting include Medieval, Tudors, Victorians, World War Two and Famous People.

Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire will be celebrating Penguin Awareness Weekend on 20th and 21st January, however educational visits to see the penguins and other animals can be arranged all year round. With various talks and demonstrations, students visiting can learn about the different species and conservation. The zoo has 24 Humboldt penguins which have daily feeds which schools can enjoy watching. Other birds you can see on a visit include parrots, owls, lorikeet, ibis, stork, and lapwings.

For more information regarding RSPB and the Big Garden Birdwatch and the Big School Birdwatch, visit www.rspb.org.uk.